HEE launches 10-point investment plan to support trainee returners

Health Education England (HEE) has announced 10 commitments designed to bring about “real improvements” to the return-to-training process for trainee doctors who have taken time out of their jobs.

The new investment plan, revealed today, is a response to the evidence the organisation received with regards to the experiences, both good and bad, that doctors face when returning to work. General feedback has been that the current support for trainee returners is inconsistent across England.

Dr Peter Hockey, co-chair of the Supported Return to Training Content and Delivery group, said the team has heard some heart-breaking stories of experiences that “could have been so much better with a little planning,” as well as brilliant stories of good practice and innovation.

“The problems around returning to training have been left unaddressed in some areas and specialties for too long – and I am very optimistic that this innovative funding and the ideas that have come from a wide variety of sources, will result in genuine improvements to the working lives of all our colleagues who take time out of clinical practice for a wide variety of reasons,” he added.

Those who provided evidence also said that patient safety is an overarching priority, with trainees emphasising that any successful training programme should centre on the need to boost returners’ confidence.

“There are a number of reasons why a doctor might take approved time out of programme. In many cases it will also benefit their learning, for example, should they seek to develop their skills elsewhere,” HEE said in a statement.

“However, we also know that any time out may impact upon their skills, knowledge and confidence, and, naturally, many will require tailored support when they return. By supporting doctors through this transition, we will help to bring about improvements in the safety and quality of care for patients.”

The 10 commitments include ringfenced funding for doctors to access resources in support of their return; centralising and co-ordinating a defined process for exit, time out and re-entry to the training programme; delivering ‘Keeping in Touch’ conferences; commissioning training for educational supervisors to help them support returners; and collaborating internally and with the wider system to address interdependencies and amplify returners’ voices.

HEE will also conduct further investigation to develop a ‘menu’ of bespoke return-to-training approaches, and will set out to capture better data on returners so that it can continue to provide individualised support when required.

Professor Wendy Reid, HEE director of education and quality and medical director, who will be writing about the wider Enhancing Trainee Doctors’ Working Lives programme for the upcoming edition of NHE, said: “At its core, this piece of work is about bringing about improvements to patient care, by better caring for our doctors.

“The NHS’ lifeblood is its people, and we know if we are to deliver high-quality, compassionate care, we must treat our own staff in accordance with these same principles.

“This report challenges us to bring about some major improvements in the way we approach this, especially at a local level.”

HEE will shortly be advertising fellowship opportunities for trainees to work with the organisation to refine and develop these 10-commitment opportunities.


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